With Stanley Ka Dabba, director Amol Gupte takes off where he left us with Taare Zameen Par. Here we catch our first real glimpse of the vision that shaped the idea of Taare Zameen Par. We also recognize how the involvement of Aamir Khan Productions made TZP a bigger film, though not necessarily a truer one.
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As in Taare Zameen Par, Amol Gupte returns to the world of classrooms and teachers, in juxtaposition to the world of childhood and its many dreams. Yet the shades are more muted, the characters as real and the perspective uniquely his own. It is also the landscape that we can only speculate that he probably wanted to create when he first imagined Taare Zameen Par.
In Stanley Ka Dabba, Amol Gupte takes charge of both direction and cinematography. His wife Deepa Bhatia once again demonstrates her skill as editor, while taking on the huge responsibility of production as well. The end result is a well crafted film of many layers, exploring the child’s mind with freshness, humour and empathy.
But it is the child actor Partho Gupte (Amol’s son) whose little-big soul shines in the role of Stanley. Completely unconscious before the camera, he invites the audience to laugh, cry and dream along with him. This is true of the other child actors as well, and it is to Amol’s credit that in each of them he leaves us with real characters and not caricatures. They haunt us long the last light in the cinema hall has returned.
Amol himself brings to life the character of Hindi teacher Babubhai Verma with the same gusto that he earlier showed in Kaminey. The character that emerges in Aamol’s portrayal is human both in his foibles and his later deep regret in his failings as a mentor. It is a mark of Amol’s depth as an actor that he manages to leave with the impression of a teacher who is a weak bully, yet never evil. Comedy fuses easily with tragedy, and amidst these many moments the film finds its soul.
The music from Hitesh Soni sets this soul to music, as the cinematography from Amol diffuses a gentle light over his story telling.
But sadly missing from this little film with a big heart is the touch that Aamir Khan Productions brought to Taare Zameen Par, making it a film palatable to different kinds of audience. Stanley Ka Dabba will have a more niche audience, but a trueness of spirit that nothing can take away.
I’d go with a rating of 4 on 5 for Stanley Ka Dabba. Don’t miss this film. Its sincerity will leave you moved.
The ratings and what they mean
The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and try to strike that difficult balance between cinematic critique and giving the regular film buff a peek into what’s playing in town and worth a watch.
1: Watch this film only if the director pays you
2: You could safely give this film a miss
2.5: A one time watch
3: Good cinema. Money well spent
4: Great cinema. A standing ovation
5: Simply speechless. A masterpiece.